Just after the inauguration for President Barack Obama, Robert George and several of his friends, Hadley Arkes, Michael New, Teresa Collett and Gerard Bradley to name just a few, started a website called Moral Accountability that was designed to track the moral calculus of the Obama administration. They founded it because they wanted to show the Catholics and Evangelicals who voted for Obama that there are consequences to their actions.
From their mission statement they say,
The Moral Accountability Project trusts that those self-identified pro-life and pro-marriage Catholics and Evangelicals who helped to put Barack Obama into a position to accomplish his goals were sincere in their admiration for him. We are willing to believe that they genuinely hope that he will go back on his pledges to attack pro-life laws and repeal pro-marriage policies. Still, actions have consequences, and the actions of these intellectuals and activists will have consequences that are all too easy to predict.
Now, the last entry was in December of 2009. I’m not sure why they stopped posting. Perhaps there was just too much to cover. Or perhaps they thought the point had been made clear enough already, because, you see, it did not take long for several of our worst fears to be realized. But let me backtrack.
Back in 2008 there was a grand and very public struggle for “the Catholic vote.” On one side, if I may be so partisan for a moment, was the conservative Catholics who, however begrudgingly, had chosen to throw their support behind John McCain. On the other side were the progressive Catholics who have been desperate to try to justify their vote for liberal Democratic candidates for years.
For the latter, their project was aided by organizations like Catholic in Alliance for the Common Good and NETWORK and Professor Doug Kmiec – who for all his efforts to help win the Catholic vote got the Island of Malta with its sweetly invigorating Mediterranean sun. As winter is creeping up, I’m just going to settle on that thought for a moment if you don’t mind.
Right, well, the thrust of the argument back then, one which I’ve mentioned several times on this blog but one which I think bears repeating, the thrust of the argument was that the keeper of the spirit of the social teaching of the Church was Barack Obama, a Senator who had accomplished next to nothing as a Senator, or, for that matter, as a state Senator for Illinois. Wait, sorry, he did manage to block a bill in Illinois that would have protected babies born alive after a failed abortion. He blocked it three times. But never mind that, said Kmiec and the rest, this guy is dedicated to all our fundamental principles as Catholics in political life. He follows the social teaching better than McCain.
If you were like me back then, you were probably confused as to what happened to the Indians that year. I mean, division title in ’07 and then nothing in ’08? You were probably also wondering how it was that Barack Obama could possibly meet the standards of the social teaching. The claim was that he was going to finally reform health care so that those without health insurance could now receive their needed treatments. He was going to end the unjust wars overseas. He was going to listen to community organizers all over the country to find out the best ways to address the problems of the nation. He was going to solve the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He was going to tackle the energy crisis; and, related to that, he was going to undo the harm humanity has done on the environment thus saving us from ourselves. What’s more, as if that were not enough, he was going to bring sanity to the whole abortion question. He was going to lower the number of abortions by addressing the root causes of abortion, namely poverty. We were going to focus on what united us.
Again, if you were like me back then, you were probably a bit skeptical. But then Senator Obama won the election. He was this nation’s first black President. It was a triumph. It was, seemingly, a wondrous moment for hope and change.
But that is not exactly how I took it. What I learned was that if you are running with the vitality and panache of a skilled rhetorician against an unpopular party and against a limpid candidate who demonstrated erratic behavior in response to an economic downturn rightfully blamed on said party while also having the entire media complex completely at your beck and call and simultaneously outspending your opponent 8 to 1 making it the most expensive campaign in the history of American politics, you too can still barely win with 52.9% of the votes. For me, there was not much of a mandate here, but we wouldn’t have known it at the time. Euphoria was the attitude. Like it or not.
So in the wake of it all, what has been the result? What has been the consequence of thousands upon thousands of self-professed pro-life and pro-marriage Catholics and Evangelicals who voted for Barack Obama? Well, was it day one or two that he reversed the Mexico City policy thus allowing taxpayer money to go overseas to help fund organizations that provide abortions?
Yes, as soon as our new President come into the Oval Office, he took direct action to expand abortion across the world. Of course he also got rid of the bust of Winston Churchill, that megalomaniac of a colonialist. Such a visage ought not shadow any corner of the Oval Office…which I guess doesn’t have any corners, does it. But certainly the message was: Winston Churchill is out for being a colonialist and your money for abortions in Africa is in? That’s okay.
Despite the growing unemployment, the crashing of the housing market, the financial malfeasance of large firms, and the collapse of too-big-to-fail companies like GM, the first order of business was, naturally, healthcare reform. And despite long and detailed objections to the process and the content of the reform, the White House strong-armed Democratic Representatives and Senators to get it passed. Now we are discovering just how damaged the bill is. Indeed, just yesterday it was reported that Howard Dean, not exactly a conservative fellow you know, admitted that the healthcare bill will likely force about a third of small businesses to drop their insurance plans for employees. The effect? The estimated cost of the bill will now be adjusted by…oh… 1 trillion dollars (somewhere in God’s mind my grandchildren are screaming).
On the education front, one of the tried and true marks of a social justice President, the Commander and Chief decided that impoverished and predominantly black children ought not have access to the best education in the District of Columbia and so ended the Opportunity Scholarship voucher system that made it possible. The support of teachers unions is more important than kids’ education after all. The decision, by the way, was condemned by liberals and conservatives at the time but the Democratic Senate still refused to fund it in 2010. It has taken a Republican House to secure funding.
On marriage? Well, back when the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA was being argued, conservatives in support of gay “marriage” stated that a Constitutional Amendment against such arrangements were not necessary since DOMA was in place. That is all we needed to make sure that no federal law could force a State government to recognize something on which the people didn’t decide. Who knew, then, that a Democratic President could, contrary to the oath he swore, just decide not to enforce DOMA? Well, some conservatives knew it, which is why they sought the Amendment. Since February of this year the Obama Administration has refused to defend the Constitutionality of the law.
The list of “accomplishments” could go on. Don’t get me started on Libya and the ubiquitous use of drones. But let’s just mention two final facts.
The first is that unemployment is at 9.1%. In California it is at 12%. In Nevada it is 13%. The figures on the underemployed are astonishing. The economy is in bad shape. For those who work at food pantries or who care for the poor in other ways, you know this first hand. Jails are starting to swell with men – mostly – who because of the frustrating economy drink more, lash out more, or just plain have too much time on their hands because they are out of work. Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB is currently asking bishops and pastors to step out and preach on this situation, to encourage Catholics to reach out and help their neighbor. This is the time to give more, not less.
But we were assured that electing President Obama would be the smart thing to do, would bring the economy into its proper place. Despite his having zero executive experience, he would surround himself with the best and the brightest – Nobel Prize winners even – who would solve all the problems. Today, the general attitude among economists is that we are headed for another recession, a double dip. So much for hope and change.
The second fact is that the Health and Human Services pledge to force insurance plans to cover contraception is one of the greatest infringements on religious liberty in recent memory. By it, the government, President Barack Obama’s government, will be forcing Catholic institutions all over the country to pay for a service that they believe is fundamentally immoral. Indeed, Catholic institutions would be forced to pay for abortifacients. The consciences of Catholics be damned, though. The State argues that it is our obligation to get in line behind the so-called health benefits for women. We have a freedom to worship, not a freedom of religion.
So, to sum up, pro-life Catholics who voted for President Obama assured us that he was the true social justice candidate because he would help to improve people’s lives and he wouldn’t be an ideologue when it came to abortion et alia. The truth? Well like the founders of Moral Accountability say, the truth is all too predictable. President Obama, who was brought up in one of the most famously corrupt political cultures in America (i.e. Chicago), who in front of a room full of Planned Parenthood devotees stated he wanted to pass the Freedom of Choice Act the moment he got in the White House, who for decades attended a church which was led by as hate-filled and as ideological a man as one can find, who admitted to wanting to eventually create the conditions for a state-run single-payer health-care system, this man has behaved precisely as the Catholics who voted against him had guessed.
Is all this just an “I told you so” moment? Maybe it is. Or maybe it is just a desperate plea to my fellow Catholics. Maybe the above is just a request that in the future, we all try to avoid the vote for the candidate who argues that it is a fundamental human right to kill their child. Maybe I’m just asking that we try to understand the social teaching a bit better next time.